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British Railways (Southern Region)
Bogie Scenery Van (with strengthened floor for Elephant traffic) - No. 4601

SR Elephant Van No.4601

4601 in all its rotten glory at Horsted Keynes in April 2015 (Martin Lawrence)

In the 1920's and 1930's, theatre productions were often toured around the country together with any specialist scenery and "props". Although similar in construction to other SR vans, this vehicle was designed with a high arched steel roof and end doors to allow as much height clearance inside as possible for such scenery, while conforming to SR Restriction 0, to give it maximum route availability.

The first lot (to Diagram 3102/3181) was built in 1928/'9 using second hand LBSCR underframes, when the coach bodies were rebuilt on new frames for use in electric trains. They had a 22 Ton carrying capacity.

The next lot was built brand new to Diagram 3182 in late 1938 and had an increased capacity of 24 Tons. The final lot was almost identical to the previous one but had an increased capacity of 25 Tons. It was constructed in December 1949, in the early days of British Railways, although doubtless planned by the SR. They were classified as Scenery Vans or Covered Carriage Trucks (CCT).

Elephant van in use

One of the modified vans in use, complete with elephants! Bluebell archives

4601 is one of three which were later fitted with a steel floor under the floorboards and was used for the carriage of circus elephants in the Bertram Mills Circus train, which took the complete circus on tour around Britain during the 1950's.

As they were rated to run in passenger trains, when the theatre and circus traffic dwindled, these vans were relegated to parcels and bagged mail carriage; 4601 continuing in service with BR, becoming the last survivor of the class in traffic when it was withdrawn in 1980. In this service they became reclassified as General Utility Vans (GUV).

It was purchased specifically for use on Bluebell as a signalling equipment store and workshop, where its reinforced floor would be an advantage. Having never been repainted from filthy BR blue livery, it was roughly repainted for a feature film shot on the railway.

The Spring 2015 Bluebell News states, "Members of our C&W Dept. have been successful in their grant application to the Arts Council Museum Resilience Fund, with the sum of £84,150 being awarded for the restoration and adaptation of a railway vehicle as a play and educational facility. The application for funding was made on behalf of the Bluebell Railway Trust, which is contributing a further £9000 to the project".

Arts Council England

"The adapted vehicle will provide our younger visitors with a safe, all-weather area in which to play and will also contain material regarding its history. The chosen vehicle will be restored to original condition externally to further enhance the railway environment, but will be fitted out on the inside with appropriate play equipment and some seating for adults. The project, which forms part of a programme to improve visitor experience on the railway, will provide work for a wide spectrum of volunteers and will be completed within two years".

Go to the restoration news for this vehicle.

SR Elephant Van No.4601

The "Elephant Van" in Bluebell S&T service Graeme Pettit

Elephant Van, photo by Graeme Pettit Type: Bogie Scenery Van ("Elephant Van") also CCT and GUV
Built: circa 12/1949 at Lancing Works
Original No: 4601
Length: 50' 3/4"
Weight: 25 Tons
Withdrawn: 1980
Preserved: 1981
To Bluebell: 8.9.1981

Right:4601 in S&T service at Sheffield Park Graeme Pettit

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Last updated by Nick Beck, 13 May 2015
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